faith without works is dead

Saying “Lord, have mercy” or any other divine incantation is an unnecessary response to gun violence in America. We’ve said enough empty prayers.

It’s time to work for a world where children aren’t murdered in school, shoppers aren’t shot in a mall or parking lot, and worshipers aren’t fatally injured in church.

In six minutes, a teenager became an active shooter in Uvalde, wiping out the lives of at least 19 children and two teachers. Within minutes, their survivors were forever scarred with devastating grief – grief that could have been avoided if our prayers had been married to corrective action instead of wishy-washy words.

How many more bodies will be torn apart by gunfire and left in a pool of blood? How many tiny coffins will our lifeless children hold? How many survivors will be forever traumatized because our politicians choose prayer over legislation?

If not accompanied by common sense gun reform laws like universal background checks, safe storage laws, national victim protections and red flag laws, prayers for protection seem unnecessary.

Shortly after the shooting, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted, “America is failing our younger generations after decades of rejecting good moral values ​​and teachings.” She’s right. Our elected officials do not value cooperative work for the greater good. We continue to deceive our children by insisting that might is good. Tangled in the purse strings of the National Rifle Association, many politicians are trading public safety for personal gain. It is impossible to tally the costs of such transactions, but we can start by counting the body bags after an unprovoked fatal shooting.

Greene continued, “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today,” and she’s right. We desperately need to provide mental health services. The global pandemic has triggered a spike in depression and anxiety disorders, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Affordable mental health care and sensible gun reform are not mutually exclusive. We have to do both.

Instead of gun control laws, Greene argues that “we must go back to God.” But faith itself is not an effective security strategy. To drive a car, we are legally required to have a license, registration and car insurance. Drivers must obey traffic lights and speed limits for everyone’s safety. Coming back to God will no more keep our roads safe than it will protect the innocent from active shooters. Legislation is needed.

Prayer alone will never end gun violence. In fact, mass shootings are getting worse every day in our country, especially in Texas. Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton and other NRA-backed politicians argue the legislation won’t stop mass shootings. However, the evidence proves otherwise. Mass shootings have increased since Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature made it easier to buy and carry guns. Why not give gun reform laws a chance to work? If the legislation proves ineffective, it could be reassessed and amended in the future.

Given my profession, I turn daily to the Gospels, but I find a Jesus radically different from the one known to Greene, Cruz, Abbott or Paxton. The Jesus I meet in the New Testament never sought wealth or political power. On the night of his arrest, Jesus rebuked Peter for wielding a defensive sword, but his harshest words were reserved for those who crushed the vulnerable instead of lifting them with love.

Regardless of our religious conviction, it is time to return to love. Let’s meet the need for affordable mental health services. Let’s put our values ​​first and protect our citizens from preventable harm. Let’s work together to heal the world. Perhaps then the prayers of the faithful will be answered.

Barlow-Williams is senior pastor at Austin Central Presbyterian Church.

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